2020 NatureVest Impact Report
Managing Director's Letter
As I sit to write this foreword, 2020 has become a year unlike anything we expected. In a matter of months, what started as a seemingly localized health crisis exploded into a global pandemic that has exposed the fragility of our economies and social systems worldwide. Particularly in the United States, the violent deaths of Black citizens at the hands of white police and civilians have erupted into a desperately needed reckoning on the systemic racism that paralyzes our ability to solve global problems. We will be tackling these immense challenges, day after day, for months and years to come. But I am hopeful that tomorrow’s history books will narrate a series of transformative changes in how governments, businesses and individuals act, and how this deeply troubling year spurred important gains toward a more just, equitable and resilient world.
Private capital will be no small part of the transformation that we need. We now have stunning evidence of the risks of the status quo, of relying only on old models. Inaction costs lives, it founders economies, and it allows grave injustice to fester. These are lessons that the finance and investment community must internalize and use to shape our decision making going forward.
These lessons clearly drive the work of investing in the conservation of natural systems on which we rely. The pandemic is a swift, shocking, and deeply painful experience that foreshadows the longer, slower burn of climate change and loss of nature that we unfortunately still face.
When I joined The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2009, it was just after the financial crisis of that time took hold. It was only the early days of impact investing, yet TNC and others were convinced that private capital would become an essential part of the solution to the toughest challenges that nature faces. Since then, a decade’s worth of developments in our science, increased global focus on policies to protect our planet, and continued spread of awareness have been energizing to those of us pushing for progress.
The logic was and still is inescapable: the scale of the planet’s challenges go far beyond what governments can fund and what philanthropists can support. If we are to secure a sustainable future, conservation needs to receive orders of magnitude more funding than it currently does. But the amount needed for conservation represents only a tiny slice of the private investment dollars that are out there. Private capital opens up a new scale of possibilities that build upon—but do not replace—the crucial work that philanthropy and grants sustain.
This is the foundation of the work of NatureVest today. If we can connect TNC’s specific, measurable conservation outcomes with new business models that meet competitive, risk-adjusted financial return expectations, the path to conservation at large scales is cleared. Put simply, our role is to show that the outcomes are possible alongside returns.
In part, that’s because our deals must deliver on TNC’s conservation mission. But more than that—and fundamental to NatureVest’s supporting mission—we think that clear and significant outcomes can fundamentally transform how capital is invested, and therefore how nature itself is valued. This audacious goal requires opportunism. Opportunism requires flexibility in sectors, geographies, deal structures, and capital stacks. So we have built this team as a deal shop, with the skills and creativity to tackle a diverse set of conservation challenges with a range of new structures. Now, after six years and $1.3 billion of committed capital, the breadth of TNC’s impact capital portfolio reflects the many possibilities this team has helped uncover.
The time is now right to share which ideas are working, which ones might be struggling, and most importantly, shine a light on progress that the environmental and finance sectors can build upon. We are excited to provide this deeper level of detail for public review, to help everyone solve for the risks of inaction and accelerate our progress toward a world in which all people and nature thrive together.